Who else thinks like this?

I am reading Sydney Gurewitz Clemens and Leslie Gleim (with Jed Handler):  Seeing Young Children with New Eyes; What we’ve learned from Reggio Emilia about children and ourselves, 2nd Edition, 2012 (eceteacher.org) .

This book is about teaching young children, aged 2 through 7, those in nursery, preschool and primary years, with a deep respect for “A Strong Image of the Child.”

Sources for this approach include my hero Sylvia Ashton-Warner. Sydney writes about Sylvia Ashton-Warner:  Clemens, S.G (1996). Pay Attention to the Children:  Lessons for Teachers and Parents from Sylvia Ashton-Warner.  (order from http://www.eceteacher.org/)

I am also looking forward to reading the following work described in Seeing Young Children with New Eyes: Scheinfeld, D.R.  & Haigh, K.M. & Scheinfeld S.J.P (2008).  We are All Explorers:  Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in Urban Settings . N.Y: Teachers College Press.

You can’t say ‘You can’t play’


‘You can’t say you can’t play’ was a ground rule at The Classroom on Carpenter Lane, inspired by the teaching of Vivian Gussin Paley.

MacArther Genius Grant recipient Vivian Gussin Paley talked about the experiment she conducted in her Chicago kindergarten classroom on an episode of This American Life called The Cruelty of Childrenhttp://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/27/the-cruelty-of-children?act=3.

Vivian Gussin Paley wrote an important book called You can’t say You can’t play.   (http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674965904)

Watch Vivian Gussin Paley talk about children’s play at a conference at the 92nd Street Y in New York City in 2008:  https://youtu.be/wWxYRkmHNXM



Why I made the film by Dr. Wendy Galson

I first met  Denise Dee Haines when she accepted our older son Gabriel into kindergarten at the Classroom on Carpenter Lane (CCL), the mixed-grade classroom in her home.  I was struck, then and throughout Gabriel’s four years in CCL, by Dee’s careful attention to our child and her deep understanding of his gifts and challenges. Gabriel LOVED going to school at CCL.  He loves Dee, and at age 30, still considers her one of his best teachers. Being seen, known and challenged to grow…and yes, being loved, were important building blocks for his life-long quest for knowledge.

At a turning point in my clinical psychology career, during the final year of our younger son Greg’s time at CCL, I asked Dee if I could be her assistant teacher, because I wanted to watch how she worked.  Spending whole school days with Dee, I came to appreciate  her genius in detail, and I felt called  to understand and share her strategies.  I tried to write about Dee and her classroom, but words failed me.  I sensed that a film could show more than I could say.  The following year, while still working for Dee, I began to work towards specialization as a school psychologist, to build a credible platform for speaking about the education of young children.

The idea of a film stayed with me, but the time wasn’t right until Dee told me that she was planning to retire from full time teaching in the spring of 2005.  During the last year of Classroom on Carpenter Lane, I spent every Wednesday at school with a mini digital video camera making myself invisible.  The following year, having shot 75 hours of footage, I accepted a full time position as a school psychologist with one of the largest urban school districts in the country, and I began in earnest the challenging task of learning how to help teachers.

This film took shape with the support of our younger son, Greg Windle, who helped me find the narrative arc in my material.  He also helped me learn to use the editing program (Final Cut Pro 5). Ten years after CCL closed, Greg and I were able to interview several CCL graduates as they approached the last year of high school.

My hope for Empress of Everything: Messages from a Master Teacher is that teachers and teachers-in-training can use this glimpse of CCL as a point on their compass, a direction to head in while  refining their own artistry.  Designers of primary schools might notice how the structure  and routines in each school day can build a supportive community of learners. In more grandiose moments, I hope that the model provided by the Classroom on Carpenter Lane encourages administrators and governing bodies of educational systems to see benefit in small class sizes for children during their early years at school.

(photo of Wendy by Greg Windle)

School at Home

(Photo of Dee by Greg Windle)

When Denise Dee Haines (Dee) was designing her dream classroom, she looked for a convenient location. Nothing was quite right, until she and her husband Bob Pollack realized that everything she had always wanted in a classroom was right there at home.

In Empress of Everything: Messages from a Master Teacher, Dee mentions some of the features that helped her decide to place the school at home: “I had a washer and dryer for winter; I had places for them to hang up their coats and places for them to eat. We could do cooking projects and hammering projects…”

Kindergarten, First and Second Grade, together in one class

Denise Dee Haines describes the mixed grade community of The Classroom on Carpenter Lane, where the single classroom  included twelve children aged five through eight years old who might have been in kindergarten, first grade and second grade:

“I’d had single grades and I’d had mixed grades. With a single grade, you have a (range) of skills, sometimes wider than you think you would have, sometimes at least as much as 3 or 4 levels in it, in different areas of the curriculum…and in maturity too!

“It seemed to me, if I were building my dream classroom, if we expanded it to include a number of ages, we could actually build over time, over the three years that a kid might be here, we could build a respect for all the ages.  You would have an “Older” (second grade student) who had been a here as a “Younger” (kindergarten student), passing along the culture and traditions.”

Often the community included siblings.  During the year of filming, “We had two sets of sisters, and a sister and brother… I was worried when I first took siblings. It was much easier than (anyone) thought, because they weren’t at home, they were here, and they were busy doing school stuff…”

These stills (from Empress of Everything: Messages from a Master Teacher) show children of different ages, each applying 100 stickers to a piece of paper.  They do the same task, together yet differently.

Alex (far right) is 5 years old.
Alex (far right) is 5 years old, a “Younger” (kindergarten).
Isabelle (center) is 6 years old.
Isabelle (center) is 6 years old, a “Middle” (1st grade).
PJ (left) is 8 years old.
PJ (left) is 8 years old, an “Older” (2nd grade).

Getting a Feel for Numbers

Constance Kamii , noted math educator, writes that children “invent” arithmetic.  As seen in  the documentary film Empress of Everything: Messages from a Master Teacher,  every day  youngsters invented arithmetic at The Classroom at Carpenter Lane (1988-2005).


Here is a closer look at the CCL Abacus (pat.pend.)

DSCN1236 (2)(1)

Here is the game board for Tens, as seen in Getting a Feel for Numbers:

Tens Board

Here are the rules for the game TENS

Shuffle a deck of cards.

Set the cards face down on the board in the place that says deck.

Deal four cards from left to right into the spaces at the top of the board.

Look for cards that add up to ten. Good news: all face cards count as ten. An ace counts as one.

Pick up any cards that make a ten, and put them face up in the place that says tens.

Deal again from left to right. You will sometimes be putting a card on top of another card when you deal. That is exactly how you play the game.

Look carefully. Sometimes when you pick up the cards that make a ten, you will expose a card that will help you make another ten. Pick up that ten and put it in the tens place.

The game ends when you have dealt all the cards and made all the tens you can.

Scoring: Pick up the top cards that make a ten. Put them down in the empty space between the tens place and the deck place. Keep on counting the tens by ten (10, 20, 30. .) to get your score.